“Miss Gina?” Gabrielle said, puzzled, but Ike was ahead of her.
“You remember this lady?” Ike asked the Chinese woman sharply, silencing Gabrielle with a gesture.
She nodded. “Yes, Miss Gina, she is live upstairs.” Her English was still a lot shaken up. She narrowed her eyes at Gabrielle, and beamed a smile. “You now slim since you go. I like it.”
Gabrielle feigned a smile that hid behind her eyes. Who was the Miss Gina who lived upstairs?
“Have you seen this woman on TV?” Ike asked tersely, pointing at a television set that hung on the wall, his attention focused on the Chinese woman.
“TV? No, no, I no watch TV. No like it.”
“Newspaper no. I no read, I only speak. Three years this country.” She seemed proud.
Ike pulled Gabrielle to the side. “Keep acting casual, I don’t want to alarm her. There is a flat on the top floor and I’m going up there. From what she’s saying, I don’t think she recognized you from the news. She thinks you are your sister.”
“Oh, Ike.” Gabrielle barely could talk.
He squeezed her shoulders. “Take my phone, call the station and tell them it’s a message from me. They need to send a car over here ASAP. I can’t question the woman officially. Now keep smiling while I go upstairs.”
Ike nodded at the woman, who was looking concerned by their whispered conversation.
“Miss Gina, problem?” she asked.
“Nothing at all.” She replied, smiling, her pulse racing, as Ike went out the entrance door and headed up the stairs they saw while coming in.
She got an alert response when she mentioned Ike’s name to the police officer who answered the call. Then for good measures, she called Steve too, who sounded as if he was going to burst into tears when he heard her voice. But when he was informed of the happenings he said, “I’ll be right there,”
Gabrielle turned to find the Chinese woman staring at her. “We closing, Miss Gina,”
“I know,” Gabrielle said, wondering how she could stall for time. Where the hell was Ugochukwu? Just then Ike returned.
“She’s gone,” Ike whispered, and Gabrielle thought of Steve’s possible reaction when he hears about this. Hysteria was just around the corner.
“The door is locked. I can’t break in without a warrant.” Ike started.
“Oh this is Nigeria, Ike, really?” Gabrielle lashed out, desperation kicking in.
“The police would have to search the place later. But nobody has been there for a while; there was dust on the foot mat. But I found this under the mat.” Ike continued, ignoring the platitude.
It was a PHCN bill alerting a Regina Williams of an overdue payment, dated a month ago.
“That’s the name she’s using here?”Gabrielle asked, and he nodded.
“George must have met her couple of times here and then taken her to one of your houses, or perhaps her flat. Has to be the man the Chinese woman was talking about. That would seem more appropriate for him. Anyone seeing them would think you both just came to grab some Chinese meal or something.”
Gabrielle leaned back on the wall and closed her eyes. “We came so close. Now we’ve lost her.” She rubbed her forehead, “Ike, are you sure we will find her?”
There was a weakness in her words that sought strength – his strength. “Yes, we will.” He wanted to hold her close and tell her everything would be Alright, but he also wanted her to feel; he didn’t want to take that from her.
“Now that she can be connected to this place, and to George coming here often, there’s probable cause to issue an arrest warrant. I believe she met him through an escort service, and now that George is dead, she would need to fall back on her profession; and we know them all. If she killed him, she planned it all, and had a job lined up to go to when she left here. We would find her, Gabby.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “It just doesn’t make any sense. Why kill her bank? With George dead, her income from him stopped.”
Ike shrugged. “Maybe he cut her off. Revenge is a powerful motive for murder.
Steve questioned the restaurant workers and came up with very little information about Regina Williams. Regina had lived above the restaurant for five months, and they didn’t really know much about her; she was always nice to them, always giving gifts and money when needed. She always paid cash, always kept her name out of receipts as much as possible. It was all basic information of a person trying to stay off the radar.
He scratched his head rigorously and thought about his next move. He was almost beginning to believe Gabrielle might have been framed. Pretty as a picture and framed as one too.
Ike’s cell phone rang and he answered it. He listened for a while and then said, “Thanks a lot, Roy. Good job. I’d keep in touch. Talk to you later.”
Gabrielle and Steve looked at him expectantly.
“Regina Williams cashed a cheque in Owerri today in a bank she has an account with, which was rarely used. There had been no activity on the account since the day before George was killed till today. That was my PI; he’s tracking her down now.”
“Do you think George knew she was my sister?” Gabrielle asked quietly.
“It is possible.” Ike said, taking her hands in his.
“If he did, that probably contributed to his fascination, made his jollies even jollier, if you know what I mean.” Steve said.
Gabrielle willed herself not to think about it.
“I don’t understand how she could have been going around Enugu all the time and never attracted attention if she looks like me.”
“One of the workers said she was always wearing scarves and dark glasses, even wigs, when she came out on the street. Apparently she felt comfortable coming down without the accessories because she knew the Chinese had no interest in the social scene.” Steve said.
“We’ve got to get moving on this,” he said to Ike. “We need an arrest warrant for Regina Williams, a search warrant for the flat upstairs, and a little glitch in the world of Amobi. He wouldn’t know what hit him.”
“Okay, Steve, take all the credit.” Ike said. “It is what you do best.”
Steve looked at Gabrielle. “I owe you an apology,” he said stiffly. “I was wrong about you, and I’m very sorry.”
Gabrielle glanced at Ike who said, “Take it. It’s better than I’ve ever gotten.”
“Thank you, Steve,”
“Alright. Gotta head out now.” He said to Ike. “Let’s get this show on the road and let these people close up.
Steve apologized to the Chinese woman and her companions for the inconvenience and thanked them for their cooperation. Gabrielle and Ike followed him out to his car.
“I’ll call, you, boy,” he yelled as the cruiser pulled into the street.
“We’re almost there, Gabby,” Ike said to Gabrielle, who stepped into his enclosing arms.
The woman lay pressed to the bed as she dialled his number. She felt great satisfaction from what he and his boys had done today. She pitied the detective and his little conquest, but he had it coming all along. Her boys had again made her proud.
“Hello.” He said firmly.
She had heard that voice so much it seemed like forever, “Hello,” she said, gripping the phone tighter. “You did great today. I could almost be proud of you.”
“Thank you. My boys and I will do anything for you since -”
“And I pay you enough to show my appreciation.” She cut in wittily.
“Why have you called me?” His voice toughened again.
“It’s time for the grand revealing.” She said with clenched excitement. “I believe you know what to do.”
“Of course. And the detective?”
“He’s only a pawn. He’s played his part. The lady wouldn’t know what she’s up against. Just stick to the plan, okay?”
“Roger that.” He said firmly and hung up.
She stared up at the unfamiliar engraving that coated the ceiling, remembering where she was, and rolled over to one end. She felt a canniness that satisfied her completely. She knew her game plan, she knew what move her opponent would make, and she knew the right move to tower it. This was her little game of chess and she could see through her opponent’s mind.